Earth Overshoot Day: Alarm bells ring as we race through planet’s resources

28 Jul 2022

Image: © New Africa/

This year’s Earth Overshoot Day is earlier than in 2021, which shows we’re using up the planet’s resources at an even faster rate than they can be generated.

As of today (28 July), humanity has used more natural resources than our planet can generate within a year. This marks today as Earth Overshoot Day.

This is a day earlier than when Earth Overshoot Day took place last year, which shows humanity is exhausting nature’s renewable resources at a faster rate.

The date is calculated each year by the Global Footprint Network, an independent think tank that aims to help decision-makers steer the human economy to operate within the Earth’s ecological limits.

This group determines the date of Earth Overshoot Day by dividing our planet’s biocapacity, or the amount of ecological resources the Earth is able to generate in a given year, by humanity’s ecological footprint, or resource demand.

In general, the date has been creeping further up the calendar since the planet went into an “ecological deficit” in 1971, when human consumption began outstripping what the planet could reproduce. In that year, Earth Overshoot Day was set at 25 December.

A graph with green and red lines, and dates from 1971 to 2022, showing when Earth OverShoot Day was set each year.

A graph showing how Earth Overshoot Day has changed over the years. Image: Global Footprint Network

Today marks the earliest date that Earth Overshoot Day has been set. According to calculations on the Overshoot Day website, it also landed on 28 July in 2018.

2020 saw a sudden trajectory shift when the date was set for 22 August. This was later than previous years – the latest it had been since 2005 – amid a slowdown in human activity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

How can we push the date back?

The Global Footprint Network said humanity currently uses around 75pc more than what the planet’s ecosystems can regenerate.

However, there are opportunities available in all sectors to reverse ecological overshoot and support the biological regeneration of the planet.

For example, it is estimated that a shift to smart grids and higher efficiency in our electric systems would move the date back by 21 days.

Reducing food waste by half would move the date by 13 days, while growing trees with other crops on the same land (tree intercropping) would push the date back by around two days.

Different country calculations

While Earth Overshoot Day represents humanity’s resource consumption around the world, different nations also get their own specific dates.

Ireland’s Earth Overshoot Day landed on 21 April this year. This meant that if all the people in the world lived how Irish people do in terms of resource consumption, that would be the day humanity would run out of nature’s resource budget for the year.

Many countries have an earlier Earth Overshoot Day than the global average date. Qatar was the earliest calculated this year, with its Overshoot Day occurring on 10 February.

An infographic of the earth with different dates around it, showing where Earth Overshoot Day would fall if every person lived like the country's average in terms of resource consumption.

Many countries including Ireland have their Earth Overshoot Day earlier than the global average. Image: Global Footprint Network

Meanwhile, Ecuador has one of the best calculations in terms of its consumption of natural resources, with its Earth Overshoot Day falling on 6 December. This means its ecological footprint per person is only slightly higher than the worldwide average biocapacity per person.

Ecuador’s minister of environment, water and ecological transition Gustavo Manrique has called on the world to embrace a “new development model based on sustainability and regeneration”.

“Earth Overshoot Day demonstrates that the current system of production and consumption is not compatible with the intention to continue to inhabit this planet.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic